Ethan: I tell you what, Phil, the more I read about trapping, hounding and baiting bear, the more I don’t understand why we need to remain the last state in the nation to continue these inhumane practices.

Phil: Not sure I would say it is inhumane to manage the bear population in a way that keeps people safe, while also protecting thousands of jobs.

Ethan: Having dogs chase a bear through the woods and scaring it up a tree so a hunter can stand below and shoot sounds pretty inhumane to me. Likewise with a leghold trap that causes a bear to chew off a foot and bleed to death.

Phil: What you describe rarely happens. Very few bears are killed by dog hunting and even fewer chew off their legs. But by your rationale, we should also outlaw beagles chasing rabbits and cocker spaniels flushing upland birds.

Ethan: I’m not sure you’re going to win many votes by saying, “We let dogs terrorize rabbits. Why not bears?”

Phil: Have you seen how creatures in Mother Nature feed off of one another? Have you seen how that steak or chicken you barbecue is harvested to bring to market?

Ethan: I have. And I have seen how we used to do it. Thankfully, we have chosen to become more humane about our methods and every state in the nation, except Maine, has chosen to become more humane about bear hunting.

Phil: But the real problem with this referendum is the issue of banning baiting. If they had simply gone after the hounds and traps, they would have a lot stronger leg to stand on.

Ethan: The offer to simply get rid of hounding and traps was made to the Legislature, and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine convinced them to say no. They were completely unwilling to compromise, which is why we are here today.

Phil: But if you take away baiting, then the bear hunting industry will virtually vanish (maybe their real goal?) and our bear population will skyrocket. In my time in the Maine Senate, we relied on and authorized wildlife biologists to regulate the size of the moose population and where moose could be harvested. I don’t recall our biologists stepping forward this time to testify that bear harvesting needed to change. Aren’t they in the best position to determine if changes are needed?

Ethan: There are plenty of biologists who believe we can manage the bear population without resorting to tactics like these. In fact, I spoke to an avid hunter/biology teacher who couldn’t believe we still use these techniques. He said that Oregon banned baiting 20 years ago and they manage their population very well. In fact, never better. I looked it up, and he was right!

Phil: I was in Crested Butte, Colorado, two years ago and they had the opposite problem. Bears are a total menace. It isn’t until several “break-ins” that a person could deal with the problem and then only after getting permission from law enforcement. Now, I’m not saying we’re Colorado. But nor are we Oregon. We need a solution that works for Maine.

Ethan: True, but the point about Oregon is that they banned these procedures and found a way to manage the population just fine. And in Colorado, one thing biologists are not considering is all of a sudden allowing dogs, traps and bait to manage the population. They know these practices are inhumane and ultimately don’t even work. Why would Maine be different?

Phil: If you read the referendum question, I believe it says that if bears are a menace to you or your property then you can use the very tactics the bill outlaws. Tell me how that makes sense.

Ethan: No, it doesn’t (say that). It says scientists and biologists can use these tactics if they see no other way. But this proves my point. If it turns out that the bear population somehow becomes problematic, there is a safety valve to protect the public.

Phil: The issue here is that counties in northern Maine and hunters across the state are feeling threatened. This is a threat to our economic and cultural way of life.

Ethan: Allowing equal marriage was a “threat” to our way of life and we made that change because it was the right thing to do. And once we did, the sky did not fall as many predicted.

Phil: Perhaps the sky will not fall, but I would have more faith in your arguments if this referendum was led by sports people, biologists and residents in the affected areas. Instead, the leaders of this referendum are from out of state.

Ethan: In 2004 almost 350,000 Maine people said they wanted these practices banned and the Legislature didn’t modify bear hunting laws one iota. Last year the Legislature was asked to simply get rid of the most egregious parts of our hunt. Again they failed to listen. Now 70,000 people have signed petitions saying we want to vote again. That’s local enough for me to believe the people should vote on this issue again.

Phil: And indeed they will.